SGA Passes Divestment, Club Sports Bills

By BEN DOHAN

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed two bills on Feb. 18, one which called for a referendum on Middlebury’s divestment from fossil fuels and one which provided a process by which students may form new club sports teams.

The divestment resolution, proposed by Feb senator Alec Fleischer ’20.5, called for a referendum among students on whether or not Middlebury should divest from fossil fuels.

“We had a successful divestment bill in 2013, a long time ago, but nobody listened to it,” Fleischer said.

He added that the referendum will help to spread the word about divestment and to gauge what percentage of students are in favor of it, rather than relying only on the elected representatives to advocate for change.

“We’ll do a very large ramp up campaign with more events like we saw in the fall, a lot of tabling, doing a lot of just like get out the vote type of things, cause the more people that vote, the better,” Fleischer said.

The fall event Fleischer referred to featured a series of speakers, including professor Bill McKibben, who spoke about why Middlebury should divest. The event was held at the same time as a college trustees meeting.

The referendum will occur during the spring SGA elections.

The club sports bill that passed the same day had been in discussion for several months. Senators John Gosselin ’20, Jack Goldfield ’20 and Rae Aaron ’19.5 authored the bill, which designates any new group hoping to reach club sports status as a “provisional club sport.” This designation will come with $200 in funding for the club’s first two years. After those two years, a joint committee made up of members the SGA student organization oversight committee (SOOC) and the SGA finance committee will decide whether the club will be accepted or rejected as a club sport, or whether it will continue its provisional status.

The bill is an offshoot of an original draft that focused on allowing the club tennis team to become an official club sport, since Middlebury policy previously did not allow club sports where there were existing varsity teams.

“The main motivation behind creating this bill is that there have been a group of students who wanted to start club tennis three or four years ago and they were told no by the student activities office because there already is a varsity sport” said Aaron, who is a member of the club team. “They really just want recognition and they deserve recognition, and I think that the SGA realized that and decided that instead of just opening the rule for one sport, it’s only fair if we open the conversation for all students who are interested in starting a new club sport,” Aaron said.

Doug Connelly, director of club sports, estimated that between four and eight new club sports could apply to be provisional club sports in the first year.

The proposal originally had a number of clauses focused on saving money that were removed because they would have crippled a number of existing club sports teams. The bill ultimately passed in a contentious vote, with eight in favor, one opposed and five abstaining.

“I had a lot of problems with the way the bill was written, how hastily it was written and that it got rid of the only check we had to keeping club sports manageably funded,” said Peter Dykeman-Bermingham ’18.5, chair of the finance committee.

Dykeman-Bermingham noted that when the current club sports bill expires in two years, the new bill will simultaneously allow both new and existing club sports to become more expensive.

“In two years we’re gonna have a really serious budget issue. It opens the door to a whole host of clubs that we are not prepared for financially,” he said, adding that students are concerned that the college will have to raise tuition to accompany the rising student activities fee when the crisis hits.

Club sports make up about 10 percent of the SGA’s annual budget, accounting for $122,000 a year plus an additional $20,000 that was requested this year. Each club sport costs on average $5,000; the cheapest one this year had a budget of $1,305. The current club sports bill caps the any club sport’s funding at 100 percent of its average budget over the last three years.

Though Aaron admitted that the SGA’s biggest concern is the financial aspect of the bill, she had a more optimistic view on the potential costs associated with new club sports.

“I’m not concerned about it getting out of control because our finance committee and our student organization oversight committee are very thorough when they look through which clubs to admit,” she said. “I think it’s just frustrating that the student activities fee has to cover the cost of all club sports.”

After the bill passed, SGA president Jin Sohn ’18, who voted against holding a vote for the bill and then abstained from the vote, called for the SGA to ask for more support from the administration in the handling of club sports.

Dykeman-Bermingham and Gosselin worked on an amendment to the club sports bill that was passed at this week’s SGA meeting on Sunday, Feb. 25. The amendment addresses some of the issues that were immediately apparent in the original bill, such as the inability for teams to purchase snacks.

The SGA also passed the bill calling for the replacement of the dining halls’ disposable containers with reusable foodware at Sunday’s meeting. Students will be able to buy in and get carabiners before spring break, while the reusable containers will be available after the break.

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SGA Passes Divestment, Club Sports Bills